Monday, September 24, 2012

The "CURE" Research

I've been letting all of this information stew.  In fact, I think I've let it stew so long that it's now well-fermented.  But I'll try to recall it all with as much accuracy and detail as I possibly can.

I mentioned a while back that I attended a JDRF Research Progress Summit.  The first part of the night was dedicated to the Artificial Pancreas Project, which you can read about HERE.  The second part of the night was dedicated to informing us about the research into a cure, AKA beta cell regeneration.  You see, in a normal person, beta cells are constantly regenerating.  As cells die off, new ones crop up and insulin continues to be produced.  So the newest research is in how to make those cells regenerate in diabetic bodies.  And how to protect the new cells from the attacking immune system.  I can't recall the names of the drugs anymore, but scientists have discovered a couple of common OTC/prescription meds that when combined, they can actually promote the regeneration of beta cells.  The trick is combining them in the right ratios.  Not only do they help the cells regenerate, but the new cells are "encapsulated", as the scientists called it.  For some reason, these new cells have a barrier around them that protects them from the immune system.  Obviously, there's still a lot of research they need to do on this...animal trials, human trials, etc.  But it looks promising for the future, right?

So why am I not jumping for joy at the thought that my diabetes might be cured?  I was diagnosed nearly 26 years ago now.  When I was diagnosed, the thought back then was that diabetes meant you had a bad pancreas.  So, they tried pancreas transplants.  And they ended up with worse problems, either because the new pancreas was rejected or for any number of reasons related to the fact that the original pancreas hadn't actually been "bad".  Thoughts changed.  Now they think the beta cells are bad.  Their vision has narrowed.  Their focus is now on some teeny tiny little cells.  But in my mind....I'm wondering if their vision shouldn't have broadened instead of narrowing.  You's not the pancreas that's bad, it's not the beta cells that are's the IMMUNE SYSTEM!  How often do we hear that it's common for people with Type I Diabetes to also develop other issues, like Celiacs or Graves or Addisons?  The scientists are focusing all their energy on regrowing cells and protecting them from the rogue immune system.  But what about the rest of the body?  Is it worth it to be cured of diabetes if we're just going to end up with Celiacs.  Or worse!  Most of us in the DOC are aware of Laura's struggles with her gorgeous girl, Sophie.  Would we want to trade our diabetes in for Sophie's Crohns?

Don't get me wrong.  I still have hope that there is a cure out there.  I'm just not sure the scientists are heading in the right direction yet.  We shall have to wait and see.